Colorado College women’s soccer is making a move up in competition while staying closer to home.
On Thursday, the Mountain West Conference announced it added CC as an affiliate member beginning this fall.
The Tigers, which won the 2013 Conference USA regular-season and playoff championships, fits well into the Colorado Springs-based Division I league geographically and competitively.
Only short bus trips are required to reach Air Force, Colorado State, New Mexico and Wyoming instead of the plane flights to C-USA schools.
“We have never had (league) rivals where their fans can actually be able to drive down and create that environment we would love to have on our field,” Tigers coach Geoff Bennett said. “The thought of their fans traveling and coming out to our games and creating that real rivalry experience has them (the players) thrilled and excited.”
Adding a successful program helps the Mountain West by creating a 12-team schedule.
“Colorado College has a growing national reputation in women’s soccer and the Mountain West will certainly benefit,” commissioner Craig Thompson said. “In addition, the natural geographic proximity will support our scheduling efforts.”
“We could not be more proud to join the conference at such an exciting time in the league’s history,” CC athletics director Ken Ralph said.
CC’s recruiting also fits the league footprint. The Tigers (15-4-3 last season) have 10 players from the Pacific time zone, three from Colorado and one from Hawaii.
“We’re extremely excited about joining the Mountain West,” Tigers forward Jessie Ayers said. “A lot of our players are from the West Coast, including myself, and Colorado. So, in terms of building fan support here at home and on the road, it will be very good.”
The Tigers are 22-9-3 all-time against their new league foes.
“There is some familiarity,” Bennett said. “But there are a lot of teams we haven’t played which is also great for our team and our program. Hopefully that will bring out the fans and create a real good buzz in town.”
Affiliate membership means the school can only compete in that one sport. CC is eligible for the Mountain West playoffs and the league’s automatic NCAA berth. They enter a conference with some strong programs.
San Diego State became just second team to win both the regular-season and tournament titles in back-to-back seasons. The Aztecs lost in the first round to eventual 2013 champ UCLA. New Mexico made it to the NCAAs in 2010 and 2011.
“We are very excited to be joining such a prominent conference with in-state rivals and rivals right along the (Interstate) 25 corridor” Bennett said.
Colorado College enters its 30th season in the Division I ranks this fall after eight in C-USA. The Tigers have made 11 NCAA appearances, including eight straight from 1984-1991 as an independent and this past fall’s home loss to perennial power Duke.
“We hope we bring a level of competition that is very high,” Bennett said. “We have had a really good run these last couple of years. We hope to continue that.”